Japan's space sneakers are ultra-high heels
New Scientist Space staff and AFP
15 May 2006
New lightweight sneakers for use in space could help astronauts keep their muscles from wasting in zero-gravity.
The Japanese company Asics has teamed up with the Japanese space agency, JAXA, to create the sneakers and plans to donate a pair to Japanese astronaut Takao Doi, who is scheduled to join a US space shuttle mission in late 2007.
"In an environment of no gravity, human muscles become atrophied and astronauts need to train themselves on machines," says Takehiro Tagawa, who developed the far-out footwear.
The first samples, with a soft heel and flexible sole, weigh only 130 grams (4.6 ounces) each and incline slightly upward toward the toes. "By having the slant, the shoes would stretch a wearer's calf muscles even in the no-gravity environment," Tagawa says.
Pain in the feet
They also include a gap dividing the big toe from the others, similar to traditional Japanese socks, known as tabi, which are often worn with sandals. "The divider makes it easier to stand firm on Earth," he says.
Asics launched the project with JAXA after a Russian cosmonaut visited Asics Chairman Kihachiro Onitsuka and complained that conventional sports shoes hurt his feet in space.
The space sneakers are made for use inside space shuttles when astronauts are able to get out of their special suits.
Tagawa said the company hoped Doi could assess the shoes when he blasts off to deliver the first components of Japan's laboratory module to the International Space Station next year. "We want to create a more space-like, futuristic design for the shoes by then," Tagawa added.
via Boing Boing